Cold Fruit Pudding

The book containing this recipe has an inscription in its front cover, written by my grandmother, that says ‘Recipe Book belonging to our grandmother. A.M. Harrison, Newby Bridge and mother M.A.M. Fullmer, West Felton and Clifton Reynes.’ It’s difficult to work out who has written each recipe, as the handwriting in both is often similar. There are clues though to make me think that Maimie wrote a great deal of it. Althea‘s own, earlier book is very precise; pages are numbered, there is an index at the back and most of the recipes are dated and attributed to a person or publication. In contrast, there is no such order in this book, especially in the earlier pages. Several recipes have been copied directly from Althea’s book, which also leads me to think it likely to be her daughter’s.

The first (non-copied) recipe to be dated in the book is in 1885. Maimie would have been eighteen at this point and so perhaps thinking about marriage and children (although she’d have to wait a decade before either came along). Her life thus far had been one of unremarkable privilege. Whereas her later siblings were all born at Newby Bridge, Maimie – or rather, Mary as she was named – was born in Liverpool, at her uncle’s house (second announcement below, from May 1867). She was, it seems, a Honeymoon baby.

Unlike her brothers, who went off to boarding school, followed by Oxford, Mary and her sister Edith had a governess at home. In her book, Women’s Lives, Jennifer Newby writes that ‘Middle-class girls learned the distinctions drawn between them and their brothers while they were still in the nursery. Parents aspired to send their sons to public school, yet daughters were seen as wives-in-training, with no need of algebra or Greek.’

The handwriting for this recipe – the first in the book – is markedly different from Althea’s and so must, I think, be Maimie’s. It is undated and so she may well have been younger than eighteen at this point.

Its name is rather unappealing, and so it’s easy to understand why it became known as Summer Pudding, conjuring up as that does blowsy flowers, camomile lawns and warm nights. However, even Cold Fruit Pudding sounds better than its original name, which was Hydropathic Pudding. I’d always assumed that Summer Pudding was an age-old recipe but it turns out that its origins lie, bizarrely, in the Victorian alternative health movement.

A newspaper article from 1896 talks first of trifle and then says that ‘A simpler and more wholesome form of this dish is sometimes known as Dr. Johnson’s Pudding, being suitable for dyspeptics. It is often met with in hydropathic establishments, and very often is called hydropathic pudding.’ An earlier 1884 article describes it as ‘regularly served in hydropathic and other establishments where the inmates are not permitted to eat pastry.’ It’s hard to imagine sugared fruit in white bread featuring on spa menus these days but this was an era dominated by sponge puddings and pastry, so it would have been light compared to those.

Hydropathy involved the therapeutic use of water to cure, or least alleviate, a host of ailments including depression, sexual dysfunction and indigestion. Fashionable amongst the well-off in the nineteenth century, Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale and Lord Tennyson were all patients of the practice at one time or another. Treatment focused around exercise, a simple diet and temperance, as well as the use of water in just about every possible way – drinking it, bathing in it, steaming in it, freezing in it and sweating in it.   

I can’t know whether Maimie knew of the associations between Cold Fruit Pudding and hydrotherapy. However, she certainly knew about the Windermere Hydropathic Establishment, which opened in 1881 just a few miles north of Newby Bridge.

Advertisement for the Windermere Hydropathic Establishment, Bowness-on-Windermere, Westmorland, about 1881. Originally included in a Handy Guide to the English Lakes and Shap Spa. Reproduced with kind permission of

In 1887, The Chronicle reports Miss Harrison’s (Maimie’s) attendance at a subscription dance at the Hydropathic Establishment. The dances were apparently ‘an established institution for the gathering of the resident gentry of the wide-spread district.’ The programme featured waltzing to Bright Eyed Norah and polka-ing to Go As You Please. There is little mention of the refreshments available that evening other than ‘the dancers partook of supper served from a buffet by active waiters’ and the wine was ‘decanted by Mr. John Raine.’ I suspect that Cold Fruit Pudding was not on the menu.

7 thoughts on “Cold Fruit Pudding

  1. Pingback: Ginger Beer | Eating With The Ancestors

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